Just beyond the Downs, nestled amongst the verdant rolling Sussex countryside, a big adventure is just beginning. What began as a simple hobby has expanded, and now set to make its mark on local brewing. Close to the sleepy village of Albourne, Bedlam Brewery are striving to create beer which is just that bit better. A revolution in beer now means savouring a decent pint is no longer the preserve of aficionados. Modern beer is exciting, diverse and easily accessible. So how does a brewery stand out from the rabble?
Hand-crafted by a skilled and passionate team, brewed using mostly locally-sourced ingredients and matured for full flavours, Bedlam offers a range of beers with premium quality and distinct characteristics. Their approach is straightforward. They aim to brew the best product possible. Quality is an obsession. “It’s everything,” Bedlam’s managing director Dominic Worrall tells me. “Quality and consistency go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other.” This local landscape has already made a mark on the international wine scene, particularly with the many sparkling varieties coming from nearby. Bedlam shares land with the award-winning Albourne Estate vineyard, so there’s plenty of enthusiasm for creating the perfect tipple flowing through this valley.
The philosophy may be to brew the best beer possible, in principle something quite simple. But Bedlam doesn’t accept ‘best’ should only apply to taste. The quality of working conditions, the brewery’s environmental impact and even the crafting of the bottles all come into consideration. “We’re enthusiastic and fiercely passionate about producing great beer to a highly ethical standard.” Currently the Bedlam range spans five individual brews, hand brewed using whole cone hops, and the best malted barley. From a crisp blonde Golden Ale to their robust Bedlam Porter, each one of the brewery’s ranges contains only the finest natural ingredients. Full of flavour and provenance, they’re the sorts of beers you can easily fall in love with. If anything they’re actually breaking away from the ‘craft beer’ label, disputing the term’s blanket usage to describe anything that might appeal to a certain market. “It’s just good beer,” Worrall asserts.
Founded in 2012, Bedlam secured major investment recently, something vital to meet the growth in demand for their wares. Plans to expand their facility are nearing fruition, boosting capacity vastly. Alongside the construction of a new state-of-the-art brewery, they’ll eventually be opening to the public with a tasting facility and shop. The first fruits of this expansion come in the form of a new German-style Pilsner, which is also their first kegged offering. It’s the creation of their young head-brewer Fabio Israel. One of the country’s brightest brewing talents, he joined Bedlam from Hackney tastemakers London Fields. Before then, Israel perfected his craft at breweries in Europe, learning from some of the world’s masters. So he knows a thing or two about creating the perfect 568 ml… Also available in casks and bottles, the Pilsner combines Saaz and Tettnang hops for a mild spiced aroma. Paired neatly with gently dried pale malts, this creates a clean and refreshing flavour.
Arguably the most stunning location for a brewery in the British Isles, this rural setting works to remind the Bedlam team of their responsibility towards nature. Already their entire brewing operation is powered by the solar panels on the facility’s roof. “The way we present ourselves and go about our business is really important. We’re mindful of our environment, and strive to great beer which adheres to our credentials.” After being treated to remove any contaminants, excess water is dispersed across the whole estate, rather than simply poured down the drain. To further reduce impact on the environment the brewery uses locally sourced produce whenever possible, including British barley. Even the traditional waste products of spent grain and hops – often something usually disposed of at great expense – are given away to local livestock farmers for use as nourishing cattle feed.
As with all aspects of this business, the beer’s packaging has been lovingly designed to the highest possible specification. A Rotherham-based glass-packaging manufacturer produces their easily recyclable amber bottles, before colourful artwork is screen-printed onto the glass by another Yorkshire firm. It might be a little more expensive for Bedlam, but a screen-printed bottle instead of a printed label lessens waste. It’s perfect for a company so concerned with developing ethical and green practices.
They believe they’ve produced something unique – a brewery with an urban attitude, situated on lush farmland. Recently they’ve even started planting and harvesting their own hops onsite, something all but impossible for city-based brewers. Despite being amidst that beautiful Sussex countryside, Albion supporter and long-time city resident Worrall regards Bedlam as a true Brighton brewery. “I can’t plonk it in the middle of town, but I am a Brighton boy, as are most of the other shareholders. It’s here to represent the city.” It means a lot for him to create something people in the city are embracing and enjoying. “We want the beer to be something they have a sense of ownership of. They’re going on a voyage of discovery with us.”
By Freya Hughes